Clinical trials in the new Research Strategy

Doctor and patient

We have a long history of funding clinical trials that make a difference to patients. Our Research Strategy 2015-2020 builds on these successes, reaffirming our commitment to funding more clinical trials that directly affect patient care. 

Our place in clinical research

The clinical development of new drugs or devices to treat cardiovascular disease is an expensive and high risk endeavour, relying predominantly on industry funding. However, there are many questions whose resolution, although critical to patient care, hold little attraction for industry funders. These include comparisons of the efficacy of existing treatments, or the potential re-purposing of an old drug for a new cardiovascular indication. It’s by increasing our support for trials that address these questions that we'll continue to contribute significantly to clinical progress.

Trials without tribulations

A successful clinical trial requires an expert team and careful planning, co-ordination and management. Optimal trial design, intelligence about the available patient population, motivated trial investigators and statistical expertise are vital ingredients for success. Even with the best study team, successful delivery of cardiovascular clinical trials is challenging. 

To an extent, we are victims of our own successes: with improved preventive treatments, cardiovascular event rates are low. Trials therefore, have to recruit large numbers of people, often through multinational initiatives, to ensure optimal power and clinically meaningful results. Even before the trial can start, investigators have to negotiate complicated regulatory hurdles and costing models. 

Read our guidelines about what information to include when applying for clinical trials funding

To address these challenges as part of our new Research Strategy we will:

  • Set up a Clinical Study Committee to assess applications for clinical trials and to monitor their progress. The committee will include the expertise needed to determine successful trial delivery, such as trialists, methodologists and statisticians. 

  • Ensure that our clinical trials processes include input from patients so that the questions our funded trials address are of priority to patients as well as doctors. 

  • Actively engage with the NIHR research network and its Cardiovascular Specialty Group to facilitate the necessary partnership working with the NHS required to carry out successful clinical trials.

  • Increase our partnership funding for clinical research (including with overseas funders where appropriate) to support definitive clinical trials that will change practice. 

We’ll be meeting with the clinical research community to hear their views and to find the best ways forward to implement these processes. Hopefully many of you will be part of this dialogue.

The challenges of clinical research are many, but the rewards are rich. Every clinical trial, whether positive or negative, answers a question that matters to patients. We are committed to finding these answers now and in the future. 

Read our new Research Strategy here.